Police seek identification of ‘jersey’ found in search for missing trampers

StuffThe fathers of two missing trampers are hopeful their children’s outdoor experience means they will be found alive.A jersey has been found in the search for two missing trampers in Kahurangi National Park. Jess O’Connor and Dion Reynolds have not been seen for 17 days, after entering the Anatori Valley to go tramping on May 9. Roots Bar owner Holly Osmond said on Tuesday that Police sent a photo to staff at the Takaka venue, of a jersey which had been found. They asked whether the item of clothing belonged to Reynolds.  Reynolds worked as a chef at the Roots Bar over the summer period.  Osmond said she and the other staff members did not recognise the jersey. However, she said she only saw Reynolds wearing t-shirts over the summer, so could not be sure it wasn’t his. READ MORE: * Families, friends of missing trampers ‘take solace’ in rescue team’s efforts * Body found at Cape Farewell * Search team grows amid fears for missing Tasman trampers She was not aware where the items of clothing had been found. Police working on the search referred questions about the jersey to police communications. Meanwhile, safety concerns for rescue teams has delayed the restart of the search for pair. Police announced they would not be resuming the search on Tuesday, due to the “extremely hazardous terrain” in the search area. Tasman Police Search and Rescue officer Sergeant Malcolm York said they were assessing the decision on Tuesday morning. “There’s safety issues with the rivers dropping, and the bush drying out because of the steepness of the terrain – we’ve got to make sure it’s safe for the guys going back in.” The search was postponed on Monday after heavy rain fell in the Anatori Valley on Sunday night.SuppliedSearch and rescue teams continue to scour the Anatori River and its surrounds in the hope of finding 23-year-olds Dion Reynolds, left, and Jessica O’Connor, who entered Kahurangi National Park on May 9 but have failed to return. Search and Rescue teams have been looking for the pair for more than a week. The 23-year-olds had been living and working in the Tasman District before their disappearance, O’Connor as a kayak guide and Reynolds as a chef. York said there was expected to be “a big push” in the search coming in on Wednesday.  On Tuesday, police stated that when the search resumed, it would involve specialist trackers, search dogs, and the use of RECCO search radar, once conditions were dry enough.Not-For-SyndicationA map showing the complex river systems of the Anatori River, Kokopu Creek, Webb, Independent and Frazer streams in Golden Bay where police are searching for missing trampers Jess O’Connor and Dion Reynolds. An experienced tramper has said the complex and inhospitable terrain in the Anatori Valley could be a stumbling block for those not used to it. Backcountry tramper Paul Kilgour of Rangihaeta in Golden Bay had a teleconference with LandSAR’s team leaders last week, to discuss the terrain north of Anatori. It is one of several possible areas where the pair may have gone. Kilgour, who has extensive experience tramping through the terrain, said Search and Rescue wanted to get an idea of the “complex” country. He said Search and Rescue had received information that the couple had told friends, or other campers, they were planning to go up the Anatori and come out north at Sandhill Creek. Nina Hindmarsh/StuffNorth of the Anatori River has been described by backcountry tramper Paul Kilgour as having big bands of bush, scratchy alpine vegetation, and complex gullies with thick vegetation. However, search teams were faced with lack of a clear plan or intention and few clues as to their location. Kilgour said his focus during the teleconference was on terrain north of Anatori, including its headwaters, Sandhill Creek right up to Mt Stevens, south to Turimawiwi, and all the backcountry around the Anaweka.  He also talked about the possibility of the pair making their way along the historic survey route to the Ministry of Works Hut, also known as Mackay Downs Hut. He acknowledged it was a “considerable distance” from the search area.  In the country between the headwaters of the Anatori, where the missing trampers supposedly went, and the Ministry of Works Hut, there were quite a few river systems, headwaters and streams. He described the area as having big bands of bush, scratchy alpine vegetation, and complex gullies with thick vegetation.NZDFSearch and rescuers get flown in by the New Zealand Defence Force in the search for the missing pair. “You could slowly work your way [to the Ministry of Works Hut], but it would be a major job,” he said. “There’s only a few places you could go to really get there, and it’s really thick [bush]. I’ve only finally figured out [how to get there] after 20 trips.” He said he hoped the pair did make it to the hut because he had left a food supply there. “I also related to the search team that I’ve had people ask me casually about going up [the Anatori] … and I’ve pulled them to a stop and said; ‘Do you know anything about the terrain, have you done any tramping before?’  “I don’t like telling people not to go, but I think it’s important to emphasise the rough country – to think hard about it.”  Kilgour said it was very easy to drop into the complex gully systems and get lost. “When you look at the map … all the rivers have little tributaries, it is very easy to drop off and follow [the gullies] and easy to get lost in them and all the vegetation, it’s very thick,” he said. He’d learnt from experience that the best thing to do when stuck in a gully was backtrack. However, people without that experience might be tempted to push-on, he said. “They’re only a metre or two wide, but there’s log jams, piled up with water and gravel behind,” he said.Nina Hindmarsh/StuffSearch and rescue teams are based at the Anatori River car park, as the hunt continues for two missing trampers Jessica O’Connor and Dion Reynolds. “I’ve tried to negotiate around them before, and suddenly the whole thing moved. I could have been buried. Something like that could be a huge problem.” Kilgour said he always told people to “keep out of those gullies” and stay on the ridges.  He said the search teams told him during the teleconference that O’Connor may have had problems with deciphering maps in the past and getting disorientated as a result.  He had also heard the pair had told friends or campers they had a certain amount of days’ food, and then they were going to “live on fish”. “That concerns me, because going inland like that you are getting away from the fish habitat,” he said. “You don’t have to go very far inland before you are in mountain creeks … on the plus side, there are clearings, that can be seen off the Wakamarama Range, there’s native crayfish and fish that live in those rivers.  “I’ve heard of people surviving like that … whether they had that knowledge or not, I don’t know.”Stuff
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